Students from Notre Dame’s English Department have been particularly successful this year, with eight students invited to interview for a single or joint honours English course. This high success rate is the result of the students’ hard work but is also thanks to our outstanding Enhancing Excellence Programme, a year-long suite of activities offered by a committed and experienced team of staff. The aim of the programme is to encourage and support students in their applications to Russell Group universities including Oxbridge as well as giving additional help to students who wish to study medicine, dentistry or veterinary science. The activities focus on developing students’ skills beyond the confines of their subject syllabi.
All of our Oxbridge applicants, and the other students taking part in the programme, have: been part of weekly discussion groups, delivered individual and group presentations, visited universities, attended a conference at Notre Dame led by representatives from Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and received rigorous personal statement and interview preparation support. The WAMS (Widening Access to Medical School) team from the University of Leeds have also visited college twice to deliver sessions on how to present oneself at medical and dental interviews, and a very enjoyable mock MMI (multiple mini interview: the type used by many universities in recent years, especially medical departments).
Student Betty McDermott said of the programme that: ‘Enhancing Excellence is a great way to grow and be challenged intellectually. It gave me an incredible opportunity to be surrounded with fellow students fascinated by the same things I was. All the teachers involved in the programme gave me essential support during what can easily become an arduous process. I felt like they really understood everything I was going through, and how difficult and daunting applying to Oxbridge can feel. The mock interview I was given was a great way to gauge how I was doing in terms of my preparation, and definitely helped to remove some of the nerves I had. The interview was a surprisingly enjoyable experience. Though it was frightening in the moment, it was incredible to feel like I’d really been pushed intellectually. It was also really nice to get to talk to fellow applicants in the common rooms beforehand. One of the most important things that I learned from Enhancing Excellence is how much I enjoy being surrounded by passionate people like myself. It introduced me to new topics and ideas that I may not have been exposed to otherwise.’
Student Megan Hickes added: ‘When I first came to Notre Dame, I was not the type of person who found voicing their thoughts very easy. However, the EE group made me realise that articulating your opinion to others is one of the best ways to learn and develop your ideas. The support I have received from my teachers throughout this process has been second to none. From mock interviews to hours spent on my personal statement and last minute emails, they were always challenging but exceptionally helpful. Not only were their doors always open to myself and the other Oxbridge applicants whenever we needed guidance, but their advice and knowledge on English Literature will stay with me beyond Notre Dame. I would not have been able to realise my potential without them.’
In addition to mock interviews by staff (special mention should go to Dr Mark Anderson and Dr Nick Sykes who undertook copious numbers of them), we’re extremely grateful to Dr George Herring who gave mock interviews – and invaluable advice – to nine of our Oxbridge hopefuls. While our upper sixth interviewees nervously await news from their prospective Oxbridge colleges, the Enhancing Excellence Programme for our lower sixth students is well underway.
Celebrated as the season to be jolly, December is also the season for Oxbridge interviews, and 2018 was no exception. Throughout the month, Notre Dame students travelled to the dreaming spires of Oxford and Cambridge Universities to attend interviews for a variety of degree courses.